Some Perspectives on the Fallacy of ‘Forgiving and Forgetting’! -By Pastor Mark Minor
Bad things happen in all our lives. Somebody ‘done’ us wrong. Maybe a parent, a boss, a dear friend or a spouse. Every day incredibly hurtful, wicked and life altering deeds are done to people by ‘people’. Some are intentional… others are random acts of violence without reason or forethought. But it happens. Some who hurt us say they love us… others say quite the opposite.
In the face of such hurt, pain and betrayal, how do you forgive and forget?
Nowhere in the Bible are we encouraged to ‘forgive and forget’. Even though we often hear the two terms yoked together, forgiveness is a totally separate act. And forgetting the emotional, traumatizing and highly charged situations of our lives is stupid, impossible… and non-Biblical.
So what does God have to say about the issue?
Two things: 1. He asks us to ’forgive’ those who have wronged us (for our benefit, not theirs) 2. He asks us NOT to forget! He encourages us (and helps us through with His grace) to receive healing or closure from the ’bad things’ done to us… and then to use these events as building blocks and stepping stones in our lives.
First, let look at Forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a choice. It is one of our possible answers on the multiple choice checklist. The multiple choices looks something like this. (Circle the appropriate answer)
A. Hate those who have offended you B. Get even (usually a little more than even) with those who have offended you. C. Anesthetize the open, bleeding wound of ‘offense’— often with the help of Jack Daniels, cocaine, Prosac, or your choice of other ‘anesthesia‘ (in psychology we call this ‘self-medication’). D. Ignore the offense… usually turning the anger inward to depression or some other psychosis or disorder E. Blame YOURSELF (I deserved this) or God (this evil done to me must have been His will) and descend into the bottomless ‘hell’ of self-pity F. Forgive the offense so that YOU can get well, healed, and go on with your life.
Those are your possible answers. So which one do you chose?
I encourage you to chose letter ‘F’— for FORGIVE. Here’s why!
The reason the Bible admonishes us to ‘forgive’ is not for the benefit of the offender but for the healing of the ‘offended’. We are not to ‘forgive’ because the perpetrator ‘deserves’ to be forgiven— but because we can’t ever truly recover our lives and escape the reoccurring nightmare until we have released the ‘hurt’. Let me explain.
There are two prisons within 20 miles of our church. Each institution houses about 1800 inmates. Some serious criminals resided in these facilities. In our area, becoming a guard and working at one of these prisons is a pretty good income—so we have many in our church who work in this environment every day. If you were to visit them at their ‘jobsite’ you would see that they walk around doing a couple of things. They are constantly counting the ‘offenders’ to make sure that all are accounted for. A count a lunch, a count at exercise time, a count a night— always keeping track of the ‘offenders’. A second thing they do is carry on their belt a heavy keychain with a ‘wad’ of keys. These guards control access and egress. The offenders can’t go or come unless one of the guards opens the door and lets them out or in. The guard’s job is to keep the offenders accounted for and locked up.
Now my question to you is this. Who’s more ‘free’? The guards…. Or the inmates? I suggest to you that the inmates are more at ease and experience more freedom than the guards. You see, it’s the one’s charged with HOLDING the prisoners, who have to ‘keep track of the offenders’, who experience the constant stress and pressure. It the one CARRYING THE KEYS and keeping the offenders LOCKED UP that suffer the most anxiety, duress and grief.
If you are ’holding prisoner’ the people who have offended you, keeping track of their hurtful comments and documenting their misdeeds— you are the one who is under the greatest stress and suffering the greater hassle. If you are the one dutifully carrying around the ‘wad’ of keys, each key representing someone who you hold unforgiveness toward, you’re are the one with the anxiety and constant pressure, not them.
Let your prisoners go. Forgive them! Not for their benefit... for yours.
Yes, it’s hard! And no, they don’t deserve it! And yes, it’s a long process. But forgiveness is a choice that takes the ‘burden’ off of you. You’ve suffered enough.
Jesus took no captives when he was on earth. He forgave Peter and the boys who denied friendship with their Teacher and ran away in his moment of need. He forgave the city that rejected his ministry. He forgave his own family that thought he had ‘gone off the deep end’ with the ‘Messiah’ business. He even forgave the Roman soldier who was driving 5 inch spikes into his hands and feet.
Forgiveness is the antidote to spiritual poisoning. Unforgiveness, bitterness, hatred, holding grudges, plotting revenges and such only poisons every part of our being. It turns septic and, like gangrene, will eventually ‘kill’ us. The way to cure the snakebite of a ’wounded spirit? Forgive!
Now about FORGETTING!
Don’t forget! Remember! That’s God’s word to us. If you’ve ever taken Communion, you are ‘remembering’ the ‘wounding’ and execution of an innocent Man. But far from being a ’rallying cry’ for vengeance, justice and retribution, the Communion Table is a place of celebrating the grace and mercy of a ’forgiving’ God. ‘This do in remembrance of me’ Jesus said.
Do you have a ‘scar’ somewhere on your body? If you do, it is a reminder of an accident, or maybe a surgery. Scars are truly amazing things. Of course scar tissue is not the prettiest piece of skin on your body. But it is the strongest. And if the wound has ‘healed over’ it is no long a potential entry point for bacteria or infection. There has been ‘closure’. In the same way, God wants to ‘heal’ our open, festering wounds. Unforgiveness keeps ‘pulling off the scab’. Forgiveness applies the ointment of healing. You see, the ‘scars’ on Jesus’ body (some say the only manmade things is heaven are the scars on Jesus’ body) remind us of the ‘healing’ of our broken lives. Forget the wounds of Jesus? Far from it, we want to remember. Those wounds are the foundation of His ministry.
And your wounds will be the foundation of yours. I love the Bible verse found in 2 Corinthians 1 concerning the potential value of ’healed wounds’. It reads ‘(verses 3,4) "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." Did you get it: you can comfort others because you ‘understand’ what they are going through… you’ve been there!
USE those offenses and hurts as a springboard for ‘good works and ministry. Consider the tragedy of Candy Lightner. Candy lost her 13 year old daughter Cari when a drunk driver, on probation for past DUI’s, veered off the road and stuck the teenager as she walked down the sidewalk. Ms. Lightner didn’t forget. She memorialized her daughter and brought light, help and healing to thousands by organizing Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). She used the bad’ as a springboard for the ‘good’.
So what about you? Is there some ‘tragedy’ that you can turn to blessing and ministry? Rather than wallowing the mire of unforgiveness, would you chose to ‘forgive’ find healing are release in your own spirit, and then, maybe help someone who has gone through the same dark valley as you, get back on the road to hope and happiness. Forgiving… but never forgetting.